The Magnitsky Act
The bipartisan 2012 Magnitsky Act may not have changed Russia’s behavior, but it sure did get its ruling elite’s attention. The legislation is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a 35-year-old Russian lawyer who in 2007 uncovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme involving top Kremlin officials. Magnitsky was arrested and imprisoned in 2008; he died a year later, chained to his bed, after being beaten by guards and denied medical treatment for pancreatitis and gallstones. Congress sanctioned the Russian officials responsible, specifically targeting their ability to travel abroad and move money out of their country. This infuriated members of Putin’s inner circle, who were accustomed to sending family and the fruits of corruption to safe havens abroad. “Once your name is on a Treasury sanctions list, you cannot open a bank account anywhere in the world,” explains Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, who lobbied for the act. “You’re effectively a financial pariah.” A furious Putin responded by canceling a program through which American families adopted Russian children. In meetings with Trump campaign associates last year, Russians with Kremlin connections repeatedly brought up the Magnitsky sanctions and lobbied for them to be removed.